This interview actually took place last week on the CBC but I just got around to seeing it. Seems they have A-holes up there as well, even on their public broadcasting network. Chris Hedges is probably one of America’s best journalists and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. At the end of the interview he vowed it would be his last one with that CBC show.
The exchanges between the crypto-fascist venture capitalist/investor O’Leary and Hedges grabbed most of the attention, but Hedges’ simple but lucid replies to those questions the media seems to have the most trouble with (“What does OWS stand for?”, “Aren’t they all just dirty hippies?”, “What do they want?”) are instructive and persuasive.
Yesterday CBC continued its ongoing snide, dismissive, and condescending coverage of the third week of Occupy Wall Street with an interview with author/activist/Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges on its “inside the business world” show, the Lang and O’Leary Exchange. After the by now obligatory opening protestations of puzzlement as to what OWS is all about – “low budget” and “pretty nothing burgers” as blowhard host Kevin O’Leary described it – he then responded to Hedges’ patient explanation by calling him “a left wing nutbar”.
The transcript begins a few minutes into the 7 minute clip and you can skip ahead past the introduction if you like. (Note: Hedges wasn’t actually in Canada for this interview, as he was about to speak at OccupyDC in Washington.)
O’Leary : So what exactly is everyone complaining about? And also give me a sense of how much momentum this movement has because it’s pretty nothing burgers so far – just a few guys, guitars. Nobody knows what they want – they can’t even name the names of the firms that they’re protesting against – very weak, low budget.
Hedges : I wouldn’t agree with that assessment at all. They pulled thousands of people into the street last night and here in Washington when everyone marched past the Bank of America, they were shouting Shame! Shame! Shame! They know the names of these firms and they know what these firms have done not only to the American economy but to the global economy, and the criminal class who runs them.
Fill-in for Lang : Well Kevin made this point that nobody knows what they want. What do you say to that? We know that this is a very diverse group, there are many different agendas at play … what is the sense you have of what this movement would like to see happen?
Hedges : They know precisely what they want ; they want to reverse the corporate coup that’s taken place in the US and rendered the citizenry impotent and they won’t stop until that happens and frankly if we don’t break the back of corporations, we’re all finished anyway since we’re rapidly trashing the ecosystem on which the human species depends for survival. This is literally a fight for life – it’s that grave, it’s that serious. Corporations, unfettered capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, is a revolutionary force – it commodifies everything – human beings, the natural world which it exploits for profit until exhaustion and collapse. The bottom line is we don’t have much time left – we are on the cusp of perhaps another major banking crisis in Europe, defaults in Greece, followed by Spain, Portugal. There’s been no restrictions, no regulations on Wall Street – they’ve looted the US Treasury, they’ve played all the games that they were playing before and we’re about to pay for it all over again.
O’Leary : Listen don’t take this the wrong way but you sound like a left wing nutbar. If you want to shut down every corporation, every bank, where are you going to get a job? Where are you gonna work? Where’s the economy gonna go?
Hedges : Corporations don’t produce anything and
O’Leary : Oh really!?
Hedges : No. Financial corporations on Wall Street
O’Leary : Are you driving a car to the protest?
Hedges : They are speculators. I’m talking about the financial institutions like Goldman Sachs. They don’t manufacture, they don’t make anything – they gamble, they use money, and they believe falsely that money is real as we dismantle our manufacturing base and send jobs over the border to Mexico and finally into the embrace of China.
Fill-in for Lang : Well I see that you and Kevin could get into an actually huge argument here.
Hedges : Well you know I don’t usually go on shows where people descend to character assassination. if you want to discuss issues, that’s fine but this sounds like Fox News and I don’t go on Fox News. Either you discuss the issues and … look, you have had very eloquent writers – people like John Ralston Saul in Canada who have laid this out with incredible lucidity – and to somehow attack this critique by calling someone a nutcase engages in the kind of trash talk that’s polluted the corporate airwaves.
More transcripts below the fold:
O’Leary : Excuse me, let’s debate the issues then. …
Hedges : You were the one who started it – you were not debating the issues.
[crosstalk] …I did not call you a nutcase, I called you a nutbar.
Hedges : You said [I] sounded like a leftwing nutcase .. bar
O’Leary : Yes, bar, nutbar.
Hedges : That’s an insult.
O’Leary : Are you left wing in leaning at least would you say?
Hedges : No, I would say ..
O’Leary : You’re a centrist?
Hedges : Can I finish?
O’Leary : Please.
Hedges : I would say that those who are protesting the rise of the corporate state are in fact on the political spectrum the true conservatives because they’re calling for the restoration of the rule of law. The radicals have seized power and they have trashed all regulations and legal impediments to a corporate reconfiguration of American society into a form of neo-feudalism. And that’s what we’re really asking for – is the restoration of the rule of law.
O’Leary : Ok, but you don’t see any value in the banking system providing a financial infrastructure …
Hedges : That’s not what I said.
O’Leary : I’m asking you.
Hedges : A banking system that functions as a banking system should. And in Canada you do not have a banking crisis because you did not tear down the walls between commercial and investment banks and turn all of your banks into hedge funds. If, instead of handing massive sums of money to CitiBank, Wells Fargo – which are basically zombie banks that still hold tremendous toxic assets – we had created ten regional banks with $10 billion each and leveraged them 10 to 1, people could have been saved. Six million people have been pushed out of their homes because of foreclosures and mortgages. We could have reinvested in communities, small businesses which cannot get credit would have gotten credit. Instead they’re just sitting on the capital and not lending it.
O’Leary : So we’re certainly giving you an opportunity to speak your mind. Just so we can come full circle, what do you suggest should be done with Goldman Sachs specifically?
Hedges : They should be prosecuted. When you shove sub-prime mortgages on families that you know can’t repay it and then you dice up those mortgages as assets and sell them and bet against them through AIG, that’s fraudulent activity.
Fill-in for Lang : Alright, well thank you so much for joining us – we like to hear your thoughts.